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Highlights of the Hoosier State

Francis Focer Brown and Beulah H. Brown

In the final decades of the 19th century, the Midwest was swept up into a veritable frenzy of artistic production, as American painters in Indiana took up their brushes to work in the manner of their French Impressionist counterparts. Led by academically trained artists like William Forsyth and John Ottis Adams, these Indiana painters and sculptors found their inspiration not only in the Continental artworks they glimpsed at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, but also in “their native state of Indiana,”1 rendering the lakes and plains around them in soft, loose brushwork and, following the Exposition, increasingly bright and airy hues.2

Among the colleagues and students of Forsyth and Adams were two significant, though perhaps lesser known painters - Francis F. Brown and Beulah Hazelrigg Brown, a married couple who both practiced their art in Muncie, Indiana.


Francis Focer Brown was born in Glassboro, New Jersey, on January 19, 1891. He relocated to Indiana as a youth, and spent the rest of his life in the Midwest, studying under William J. Forsyth and John Ottis Adams at the John Herron Art School.3 It was during those studies that he met Indiana native Beulah Hazelrigg (born November 22, 1891, Napoleon, IN) in Forsyth’s classroom; the two were married despite the advice of their teacher, who apparently warned Francis F. Brown that “a serious artist, especially if a woman, should remain single.”4

Sharing a studio in their Muncie, Indiana home, Francis and Beulah continued to develop their art in practice, while Francis Brown also gained a solid reputation as an educator at Ball State Teacher’s College, now Ball State University. In his 1957 Retrospective Show at Ball State Teachers College, he was commended for the “high quality of humanism in his interest in students and in his work with his colleagues.”5 His work continued to garner respect and not unremarkable attention, as he exhibited with the other artists of the famous Hoosier Salon in Indianapolis and even joined 19 other Indiana artists who were “selected to exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair 1933-34.”6


Beulah H. Brown, a successful artist in her own right, demonstrated her own remarkable drive and commitment to her chosen profession, confronting common notions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries about what a woman could or should do. She was most prolific in her paintings of flowers, such as Lot 83 of our April Fine Arts and Jewelry auction; like her husband, she also took inspiration from the Indiana countryside and applied her sophisticated training to a post-impressionist style of landscape painting. Beulah Brown continued to work as an artist following her husband’s death on April 14, 1971 until her own death on March 26, 1987.7

Oakridge is pleased to be able to offer a sizeable sampling of the watercolor and graphite paintings of Francis F. and Beulah H. Brown to represent the Indiana Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, not only in our upcoming June East Meets West Session 2 sale but even in our May Discovery sale, so that beginning and mature collectors alike may enjoy access to this significant moment of American art history.


1) Laurette E. McCarthy in Academicism to Modernism: Fresh Perspectives on Historic Indiana Art, catalogue to exhibition of the same name at William Weston Clarke Emison Museum of Art, DePauw University, October 28, 2005-May 21, 2006, accessed via DePauw University website, April 17, 2019, 9.

2) McCarthy, Academicism to Modernism, 8.

3) Maria Peitcheva, John Ottis Adams: 190 Colour Plates (published by the author, 2016): Foreword.

4) Rachel Berenson Perry, William J. Forsyth: The Life and Work of an Indiana Artist (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2014): 98.

5) Alice Nichols, A Retrospective Show: 1907-1957, exhibition catalogue of Francis F. Brown exhibition at the David Owsley Museum of Art, Ball State Teachers College, circa 1957,  Ball State University Library online catalogue, accessed April 9, 2019,  2.

6) Nichols, A Retrospective Show, 2.

7) Francis F. Brown Memorial, Find a Grave.com, accessed April 9, 2019. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/102739643/francis-focer-brown

Literature Consulted

Burnet, Mary Q. Art and Artists of Indiana. New York: The Century, Co., 1921. Google Books. https://books.google.com/books?id=kA9DAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Francis F. Brown Memorial. Find a Grave.com. Accessed April 9, 2019. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/102739643/francis-focer-brown

Mallory, Vanessa, editor, and Kaytie Johnson and Laurette E. McCarthy. Academicism to Modernism: Fresh Perspectives on Historic Indiana Art. Exhibition catalogue to exhibition at William Weston Clarke Emison Museum of Art, DePauw University, October 28, 2005-May 21, 2006. Accessed via DePauw University website, April 17, 2019.

Nichols, Alice. A Retrospective Show: 1907-1957. Exhibition catalogue of Francis F. Brown exhibition at the David Owsley Museum of Art, Ball State Teachers College, circa 1957. Ball State University Library online catalogue, accessed April 9, 2019. dmr.bsu.edu/digital/collection/DOwsMusEshC/id/4186

Perry, Rachel Berenson. William J. Forsyth: The Life and Work of an Indiana Artist. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2014. Google Books. https://books.google.com/books?id=lylyAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA98&lpg=PA98&dq=francis+focer+brown&source=bl&ots=QPoXoKli5d&sig=ACfU3U2ziM2G9QyPPl1Nc3yZVnVEiFKmnw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjT2f2F39fhAhVlUd8KHQsWCoM4HhDoATAFegQIBxAB#v=onepage&q=francis%20focer%20brown&f=false

Peitcheva, Maria. John Ottis Adams: 190 Colour Plates. Published by the author, 2016. Google Books. https://books.google.com/books/about/John_Ottis_Adams_Drawings_Colour_Plates.html?id=MkWNCwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button#v=onepage&q&f=false

Ruschman, Mark. "200 Years of Indiana Art: A Cultural Legacy." Resource Library, September 19, 2016. Accessed April 17, 2019.www.tfaoi.com/aa/10aa/10aa674.htm


About the Author

Katharina Biermann joined Oakridge Auction Gallery in the beginning of 2019, having completed her Master of Letters at the University of Glasgow in the History of Art with a specialization in Dress and Textile Histories. Ms. Biermann developed hands-on expertise of European arts and culture while interning in internationally renowned institutions including the National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY. She remains particularly interested in medieval and 19th-20th century visual and material culture.

Katharina Biermann

Mon, May 6, 2019 9:25 AM

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